Fri, May 05, 2017 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Rural decline needs action

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has said that the best way to judge a country’s economic prosperity is to look at its rural areas, not its cities.

As a resident of a rural part of southern Taiwan, I was deeply moved by her words, and I sincerely hope the government can come up with a concrete and comprehensive cross-departmental plan to revitalize the nation’s rural areas and initiate more efforts to rejuvenate Taiwan’s agricultural communities.

Newly industrialized countries that have built their economies based on an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) development model typically run into a dilemma when their standard of living begins to rise, causing them to lose their OEM business advantage.

After companies move their manufacturing away, such countries face the typical post-OEM economic problems of high unemployment and economic stagnation.

Rural areas, in particular, have to deal with the additional pressure of an aging and dwindling population, coupled with a lack of economic vitality and loss of traditional culture.

Over time, villages in rural areas become empty or even disappear. This is highly detrimental to the nation’s overall development, as it leads to distributional imbalance and other serious consequences.

Researchers in Japan warned of such dangers as early as 1962. In 1970, the Japanese government passed a law on emergency measures for areas with overly sparse populations. From that point on, every 10 years Tokyo would review the results and revise or make new laws, with a law on special measures to revitalize areas with sparse populations announced in 1980, followed by another one of a similar nature in 1990.

Starting from 2000, following the passage of a law on special incentives for areas with sparse populations, the interval between each review on the law’s effects has been extended 20 years.

Although the government’s ongoing efforts have produced some positive effects, they have been unable to reverse the trend of marginalization of the nation’s rural communities.

Over the past few decades, Taiwan’s rural communities have lost a lot of vitality as much of their population has moved to urban areas.

Furthermore, former governments’ policies of keeping rice prices low exploited the economy of farming areas and deprived them of their dignity.

There are abundant warning signs that farming villages in Taiwan are already disappearing. If society does not care and the government fails to come up with countermeasures, there will be irreversible consequences.

People should pay more attention to the issue of disappearing agricultural communities and urge the government to work on revitalizing them.

Song Ting-tung

Kaohsiung

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